By John Mark G. Parlingayan
Goyo took his chosen stone and immediately put it in his slingshot. He held the Y-shaped frame in his nondominant hand with two rubber strips attached to the prongs. The end of the strips tended to hold the projectile, which at the moment was the stone that he was holding. His dominant hand held the rubber and drew it back, ready to hit the target. Amid the bloody-orange sky due to sunset, heading for the night, the bird, his target, fell immediately to the ground.
“Bull’s eye!” Goyo uttered to his friend Endong while checking the bird, which had a short neck and a short slender bill with a fleshy cere drenched in blood.
“You’re really good,” Endong said.
“Of course,” Goyo said. “Tatay was a good hunter back in old days, and he taught me so well.”
Solomon, a farmer, once told his son Goyo about his fondness of hunting birds when he was a child. He and his friends would even take the act of hunting into gambling. The person with the most number of birds killed would eventually win. Bragging, he always told his son that he always won, and bird hunting was the only game he knew he was good at. Fascinated, Goyo asked him for a slingshot, and Solomon gave it to the boy as a gift when the boy turned ten.
When Goyo reached home, he was greeted by his mother’s usual displeased tone because he came late again. “Are you not afraid of the spirits in the forest?” Lena said.
He did not answer his mother. He kept eating the sweet potato cooked over an open fire in their home. They mostly consumed root crops, corn, and rice, sometimes anything caught in the forest, such as birds, rodents, snakes, or even lizards when there was no more to eat. While he was staring blankly at his plate on their wooden table, with light from the fire tainting his innocent face, his mother talked continuously.
The elders in their village believed that hunting animals was dangerous. They believed that there were spirits or guardians who were assigned in protecting forests, valleys, and hills, and a class of spirits was vicious especially to people who had hurt something under their protection. Goyo’s parents believed such stories and beliefs.
Goyo would be irritated every time his Nay Lena blustered about the danger of hunting in the forest. Then that would lead to her ranting about how she really hated her husband for coming home drunk with his favorite coconut wine and how she really felt the burden of the kind of life she had. She believed that their family was cursed for disobeying and disrespecting the sacred spirits. That big belief, out of frustration about what kind of life they’d been living. He couldn’t blame his mother. He saw how she suffered from the insecurities of his father. How his Tay Solomon would accuse his Nay Lena of an affair with another man. How his feelings of being small and not enough were being displaced toward his mother and how both of his parents would wind up fighting furiously when the crops in their little land were destroyed by pests or a natural disaster. These became more complicated when his father would do nothing except drink for he could no longer hunt birds because of cataract.
After finishing his food, Goyo said politely, “I’ll go to sleep Nay.”
“All right,” his mother replied. “Prepare our banig already. Your father is coming home drunk for sure. I’ll wait for him.”
Before Goyo closed his eyes, he noticed the appearance of his mother. Her pale face painted a portrait of a tired woman at the edge of the pitfall, floating in darkness like the moon as sun left the night. He felt bad for her whenever his father hurt her. But he also felt bad for his father whenever he diminished gradually in size and strength every time she talked. As perfectly guessed by his Nay Lena, his Tay Solomon arrived drunk. She was right, but not all the time, he thought.
Goyo felt a light peck by a hard object on his head. He was awakened by it and was welcomed by strong winds from an unknown source. He found himself in a shore where the crystals of water were produced by the lights of adlaw and bulan, finally finding each other. The strange place was painted with flesh to red hues. Gloomy atmosphere along with the giant dragon-like bird were hovering in the sky. The creature was bigger than an island; it could devour the sun and moon. Goyo immediately grabbed his slingshot as it came to devour him. Its beak opened widely as beam of lights stricken him straight in the face.
He woke up from his dream with direct sunlight given by the morning outside their window. It’s weekend, so he didn’t need to worry about waking up early and walking to school for hours. He found his mother eating alone at their table. She prepared his favorite dried fish and boiled egg. His father had probably left the house to farm early in the morning.
“Let’s eat. I cooked your favorite food.”
Goyo joined his mother at the table.
He noticed some bruises on his mother’s arm. He wanted to ask his mother if his father had hurt her again but decided not to. He continued eating silently. He just already knew that they had brought pain to each other again as usual. She had talked, and he had hit her, leaving marks on her body.
He could no longer take the silence. Goyo immediately went outside with his slingshot to hunt birds again. He went to his friend’s house, but Endong was not there. His mom told Goyo that he went fishing with his father in the creek. Alone, Goyo walked rapidly until he reached the place where he and Endong used to hunt birds. Surrounded by big trees and clear skies, the dancers of the air performed a simulation of graceful movements, flying and transferring from one tree to another, mating, laying eggs, which would eventually turn to chicks. He then started aiming at his target.
He walked home late noon, satisfied, for he was able to shot three fowl. He had felt the hunger before taking his last and most difficult shot. The bird had flown higher, and he aimed for it with much effort, maintaining his stable hands and his sharp eyes. At last, Goyo was able to hit his target and was victorious before he went for late lunch.
He ran home expecting a great meal to be prepared by his mother from the three dead birds in his right hand. On the way, he noticed the color of violent clouds slowly covering the sky. He felt strange, as though something macabre had happened. He was near their house when he saw a giant creature perching on the roof of their hut. It was the bird, with its wildly moving corneas, sharp claws, feet hard as steel, and large span of wings. The light atmosphere of the supposedly bright late noon turned heavy. The heaviness of the unknown crawled to his shoulder, breaking him into pieces.
Goyo opened the door. The screeching sound it produced led him to the prone body of his Tay Solomon, drenched in blood as if he was a bird hunted by a child—hunted by him. Goyo’s body was frozen by the gust of wind from the continuously flapping wings of the unknown, flying away. His father’s body had been pecked by a hard object, in his upper torso, lying in dirt, as if wounded by a knife in a cockfight. His mother was nowhere to be found. Maybe the creature devoured her before it escaped, before it flew as high as it could until it was gone. Goyo screamed, but no sound came out of his throat.
“This is just a dream like last night,” he said in a flustered voice. “Please!”
The large creature did devour the sun and the moon and eventually did the same with the earth.